Taiwanese mountaineer Lee Hsiao-shih (李小石), who was known for always carrying a statue of Matsu, goddess of the sea, on his expeditions, was confirmed dead yesterday after conquering the fourth-highest mountain on the planet. He was 58.
Lee left for Mount Lhotse, or “South Peak” in Tibetan, on the border between Tibet and Nepal on April 8, along with companions Lin Chuan-ming (林泉銘) and former Chiayi County Health Department deputy director Lu Han-yueh (呂漢岳). They arrived at the mountain’s camp base on April 19.
Lu returned to Taiwan on April 28 after experiencing violent bouts of coughing.
Meanwhile, Lin went on an expedition to the Island Peak Summit, which has elevation of 6,189m, while Lee continued toward the main summit of Lhotse — 8,516m above the sea level — accompanied by Sherpa guides.
Lee reached the main peak of Lhotse on Friday last week. However, he fainted while descending from the mountain after coping with inclement weather along the way.
Lee’s wife, Lin Ching-ching (林青青), was told by the mountaineering firm that helped to arrange the trip that Lee had passed away on Sunday, but Lu later discovered that Lee’s wife was misinformed.
After Lee was reported to have improved after receiving treatment, Lin Ching-ching decided to meet with Lu in Greater Kaohsiung and the two were scheduled to leave for Nepal via Hong Kong yesterday.
However, she received a telephone call from Lin Chuan-ming soon after she boarded the High Speed Rail, saying that Lee had been found dead yesterday morning at the base camp.
Lin Ching-ching then decided to return home to Chiayi County and discuss with other family details for Lee’s burial.
Lee’s wife told reporters that her husband wanted to be buried in the mountains if he died on an expedition.
Lee, a native of Lienchiang County (Matsu) was a calligrapher, painter and photographer. He climbed Mount Everest in 2009 and published a book in 2010 detailing his expedition on the highest mountain on Earth.
In 2011, he reached the top of Mount Manaslu, the eighth-highest mountain in the world.
The mountaineer once said that his whole family became firm believers in Matsu after his father was rescued four days after a ship he was traveling on capsized in rough waters.
Following that, he pledged to take a statue of Matsu with him while climbing the world’s 14 highest peaks.
The Lienchiang County Government announced that the county would hold a memorial service in commemoration of Lee’s achievements.
“Matsu was proud of Lee Hsiao-shih, and the stories of him carrying the statue of the goddess Matsu on his expeditions in the mountains will forever be told in his hometown,” county officials said.